The relationship between church, state and the international crisis facing welfare finance is the root cause of why some countries are friendlier to same-sex couples than others, says a University of Manchester researcher.
Professor Angie Wilson's findings, based on an analysis of ten countries, are published in her new book this month, ahead of the US Supreme Court's judgement on gay marriage this week.
According to Professor Wilson, the court's nine justices are unlikely to proclaim a national right to same-sex marriage, differing widely from the attitudes of policy makers in Western Europe.
In her book, 'Why Europe is Lesbian and Gay friendly and why America never will be', published by Suny Press, she argues there is a gap in how we understand the advancement of gay rights across different countries.
Well organised gay and lesbian movements, political action, changes in social attitudes and human rights legislation, have all contributed to policy changes in gay friendly Europe, she says.
But more fundamental is the 'Political economy of care': the intersection of state, market, religious and family relations.
She will be giving a prestigious TED talk on the topic, online next month.
She said: "My research asks how is it that so many European countries have policies that protect citizens from discrimination based on sexual orientation and recognize same-sex couples, when many American states do not?
"The historical involvement of Christian churches, particularly in post-World War II welfare settlements, and the resulting political economy of care in each country, is unique. However, one common factor is the interpretation of 'the family'.
"In many US States – especially in the South- religiosity is high, and Christian churches, rather than the state, are primary providers of social welfare, health and other services.
"This represents a huge financial investment in the traditional family and the church as the two key providers of services.
"If socially conservative religions lose their investment in service provision, they lose the political power to define morality and much of their political influence."
She added: "As European countries are facing austerity, redefining the traditional family to encompass and gay and lesbian people makes financial sense for states: families are far cheaper than the state at providing welfare.
"For those countries where religiosity is lower, this is going to be easier. In America, where religiosity is high and there is little federal support for welfare, it is going to be harder."
Professor Wilson's work can help explain policy development in countries such as:
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Professor Wilson is available for comment
Further information is available
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